In looking at the current state of play at The Arsenal it’s easy to feel anger, frustration, disappointment and sadness. I don't expect anything from money men, be they employed by Football clubs, local Authorities or other businesses, therefore the pronouncements of Hill-Wood, Kronke and Gazidis do not surprise me. That they are concerned about Pounds Shillings and pence is the reality of the modern football landscape.
Our Manager, however, is by definition responsible to the club and the supporters for delivering footballing success alongside the other aspects of his job description. A lot has been said about Arsene Wenger. Those that criticise him as the manager of our club are vilified (yes, If that criticism is of a personal nature then it should be rightly reprimanded) by those that feel he is beyond reproach.
And there's the rub; Arsene Wenger is beyond criticism from those that pay him to do his job. Just as every Arsenal supporter has an opinion, good, bad or indifferent, to gag points of view and abuse dissenters to any perceived 'right' way of thinking serves no purpose.
I have issues with Arsene Wenger as our manager and I believe that they have merit.
"I'll not budge an inch"
I think it’s fair to say that Arsene Wenger is not a tactician, he is more a believer in imposing a style of play than responding tactically. This policy has faults as it leaves little scope for reactive decision making.
In terms of tactical defensive displays that reaped dividends I can only recall two; Arsenal 0-0 Real Madrid ECL 1/4 Final
Arsenal 0-0 Manchester United FA Cup final.
The rigidity of the 70th minute substitution is hard to comprehend, these substitutions are often illogical and seem only based on fitness. Rarely do we see a tactical substitution made then, or at any other point in a game
"Ambition should be made of sterner stuff"
The manager has made the correlation between qualifying for the Champions League and attracting top class players. This does not stand up to scrutiny as we have seen Liverpool and Newcastle bring in one or two very good players despite not competing in the ECL. The better players who have joined Arsenal in the last half decade have generally gone elsewhere to win trophies.
A team that is always ‘there or there abouts’ when it comes to trophies and picks the odd one up now and again will attract players.
"The game is up"
Allowing Ashley Cole to go to Chelsea was a defining moment in our better players leaving the club through choice, it also showed a metaphorical defeatism to the new Oligarchs on the block from Stamford Bridge. In Cole’s departure and his subsequent success (and that of the club he went to) was sown the seeds of a new regime in the league and one that the club almost took too lightly.
Yes it’s hard to compete with bottomless pockets but by creating an environment where success is rewarded a club can compete out there on the pitch. Our club financially rewards mediocrity at player and manager level, and the wages paid to mediocre players at Arsenal make it hard for better players to swallow.
Year on year our Captains have departed, albeit for differing reasons, which sends out a message. No other comparable club has had such a turnover in Captains; that’s a fact.
"That it should come to this!"
In 16 years I think it’s true to say that Arsene Wenger has bought 1 top quality keeper in Jens Lehman. When Almunia was promoted and in effect took over as the clubs number 1 we had possibly the worst keeper amongst the clubs we were competing with. I also believe that for a period no comparable club in the Premier league had a worse set of keepers as we did in Almunia, Fabianski and Mannone. Failure to invest in an experienced Goalie in the last 5 years to join the keepers’ mini squad is hard to understand.
"Delays have dangerous ends"
It is rare to have former players criticise Arsene Wenger, and this is most likely down to the fact that Arsene is a decent human being (I believe this, but it does not make him immune from criticism in his role as manager of Arsenal). What is of concern is the way in which we keep seeing poor players on extended and lucrative contracts, making them virtually unsellable and good players being allowed to run their contracts down; this seems to me as making bad business sense, but what do I know? I don’t have a business or economics degree.
"A poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more"
This is something of a myth. In 16 years just how many players have we seen come through the ranks and become regular quality first team players? By the law of averages we should expect to have seen maybe 10-12? Too many? Okay 7-8 players achieve this. But we haven’t.
"When sorrows come, they come not single spies ,but in battalions"
Aside from disgraceful leg-breakers inflicted on Diaby, Eduardo and Ramsey we have seen unprecedented injuries to our squad. The sheer volume is mind boggling. Sheer bad luck or something else? The Arsenal have top notch facilities at Colney yet the treatment table is permanently fully booked. Could there be a problem on the training pitch where it is a well known fact that little contact training takes place? Who can say but our injury record is appalling and shows no signs of abating
"An honest tale speeds best, being plainly told"
The manager seems to have a policy, implied or implicit, of sticking with players too long and allowing other players that were happy to stay to go too early. Examples of ‘too long’ being Denilson, Almunia and Eboue among many others. Examples of ‘too early’ being Gilberto, Pires, Lehman and Edu (the list is much longer). Of course he is paid, and paid well, to make these kinds of decisions and will get some of them wrong, he’s only human, but those decisions have been proved wrong time after time.
"We have seen better days"
The golden period for Wenger’s Arsenal began with a League and Cup double in 1998, following his arrival in 1996, with a team that had an inherited back 5 and an inherited Bergkamp, Wright and Parlour. We saw the addition of fabulous talent in Henry, Vieira, Pires, Ljungberg and great squad players like Kanu, Wiltord and Edu. These were the glory days of battling it out annually with the great Manchester United side for supremacy; Halcyon days. We had more doubles and the Invincibles we took the FA Cup in 2005 and reached the ECL final in 2006. Then a move to the all singing-all dancing Emirates and that empty space on the upper tier display. We are well into the second half of Arsene Wenger’s tenure and the statistics, unlike opinions, are indisputable. The club are doing far worse on the pitch than during the first half of Wenger’s reign
Even allowing for the rise of the Oligarch, the arrival of oil money and other external factors it has to be acknowledged that Arsenal Football Club are not in a good place out there on the big green rectangle and in the trophy cabinet.
"This is the short and the long of it"
If one judges Arsene Wenger and is seen as being unfair for doing so it should be recognised that he is only being judged by the standards that he himself set. Which I think is fair enough
"Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more"
All quotes W. Shakespeare